Taka Higashino is the best freestyle rider to come out of Japan, and the rider from Osaka finished a solid third at the inaugural Nitro World Games, in spite of nursing an injured shoulder. We caught up with Taka-san after the amazing event at Rice Eccles Stadium.
Hey Taka, how was your shoulder feeling for this contest? I know it held you back at X Games…
Yeah, a little. Some tricks are fairly easy for me to do, but others are painful. The two weeks prior to the competition I didn’t ride so that I could let my body rest, but when I got here and did a certain trick it felt like I hurt a ligament or something. I couldn’t really do anything about it, so I just kept riding.
How was the event format-wise? You have to write down your run for the judges before you go out and ride...
Yeah, I love it. It was like having one category for multiple styles. I don’t have a flip combo trick right now, so I had to figure out my run in practice. I really enjoyed this, and I like this style of format. I can specify with the judges before my run exactly what I’m going to do. For me, it was good because most riders have to do a run that involves each category like whip, flip trick front, and flip trick back.
They had to stop you guys occasionally for TV time. Did that make it a little more nerve-wracking or was it a time to relax for you?
Yeah, that made me a lot more anxious because we’re so used to knocking out an entire run in one shot. However, with the pausing of our runs, it allowed for my body to calm down.
You had a particularly long wait time though…
Yeah, I know, but I didn’t think about it because I was trying to relax by watching TV. I was in deep thought (laughs).
What’s your first impression of the Nitro World Games?
I love it. I’m so happy! The thought of even pulling out of the competition crossed my mind because I knew the contest was going to be tough and I’m still battling this shoulder injury. I figured I’d stay for some TV time, then I made it into the top eight and finally I finished in third overall!